1. Alexandria, 2. The Brother, 3. Dahab, 4. El Gouna, 5. El Quseir, 6. Hurghada, 7. Marsa Alam, 8. Safaga, 9. St John’s, Zabargad and Rocky Island, 10. Sharm El Sheikh. Egypt has been a favourite of scuba divers for the better part of half a century thanks to its proximity to the Red Sea, which runs along the entirety of Egypt’s eastern coastline. First brought to the world’s attention by Hans and Lotte Haas’ award-winning black-and-white documentary Adventures in the Red Sea, and later popularised by Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s 1956 full-colour documentary The Silent World, the Egyptian Red Sea is now regarded as one of the best scuba diving destinations on the planet. Here are top 10 best places for scuba diving in Egypt.
- The Brother
- El Gouna
- El Quseir
- Marsa Alam
- St John’s, Zabargad and Rocky Island
- Sharm El Sheikh
Alexandria is one of the best places for scuba diving in Egypt. It’s easy to forget that Egypt’s northern shoreline lies along the coasts of the Mediterranean, and scuba diving in allows visitors to plunge into Egypt’s historical past. From the ruins of Cleopatra’s palace on the sunken island of Antirhodos to Alexandria’s Lighthouse, one of the ancient world’s seven wonders. to more recent historical artifacts from the Battle of the Nile during Napoleon’s reign and the Second World War.
Visitors can also dive in the clean waters of the Siwa Oasis, which is a three-hour safari through the desert with ancient Roman remains. The ancient city of Alexandria and its rich history may well be something worth dipping your toes into for scuba diving history buffs looking for a new adventure. There is little of either, the water is often murky, and the temperatures are much cooler, but for scuba diving history buffs looking for a new adventure, the ancient city of Alexandria and its rich history may well be something worth dipping your toes into.
How to get there: direct flights to Alexandria are available from the likes of Turkey, Dubai and Greece but there are few other options from most of Europe. A better alternative is to fly into Cairo and take the 2.5-hour bus ride to Alexandria
Big Brother and Little Brother is ranked second on the list of best places for scuba diving in Egypt. Big Brother and Little Brother are two island reefs located about 70 kilometers from El Quseir’s harbor town and only accessible by liveaboard. They are some of the best dive locations in the Red Sea, but the reefs are only appropriate for advanced divers due to their distance and surrounding currents. However, for those willing to risk the constantly shifting circumstances, the rewards are fantastic, particularly for big fish fans, as sharks and other huge pelagics are often observed at various periods throughout the year.
The Numidia, sunk in 1901, and the Aida, sunk in 1956, are both wrecks that wreck fans will enjoy. Big Brother is roughly 400m long with deep-sided cliffs, abundant hard and soft corals, and wreck aficionados will enjoy the Numidia, sunk in 1901, and the Aida, sunk in 1956. Little Brother, which is around 500 meters away from its companion, is frequently visited by schooling hammerheads, thresher sharks, and oceanic whitetip sharks, as well as a diverse array of coral formations.
The brothers are part of a variety of liveaboard itineraries, some of which spend more time on the reefs than others, and some of which depart from Hurghada and others from Port Ghalib (Marsa Alam). Although direct flights to both places are accessible (Hurghada more so than Marsa Alam), the liveaboard operators would normally arrange all flights and transfers based on the program.
How to get there: The brothers form part of a range of different liveaboard itineraries, with some spending more time around the reefs than others, some departing from Hurghada and others from Port Ghalib (Marsa Alam). Direct flights are possible to both locations (Hurghada more so than Marsa Alam), but the liveaboard operators will usually arrange all flights and transfers based around the itinerary.
Dahab is one of Egypt’s most popular tourist attractions, offering a superb combination of excellent scuba diving and a quiet and laid-back attitude, popular with backpackers and a welcome contrast to the too crowded Sharm El Sheikh, 80 kilometers to the south. The Blue Hole, which is best dived from El Bells, a tight (but easy) opening to the outside wall, and the Canyon, a deep rock cleft on a gently sloping reef dotted with little coral bommies and vast numbers of fish, are both easily accessible from the shore.
Big stuff passes by seldom, but there’s enough to see, and lounging in the Bedouin cafés is a peaceful way to pass the time on the surface. Masbat’s center district is brimming with beach-front bars and restaurants (in a good manner) and affordable lodging, with larger hotels farther south in Mashraba. If you don’t mind getting up early, day tours to Tiran, Ras Mohamed, and the Thistlegorm are available.
How to get there: Fly into Sharm and take an inexpensive taxi to Dahab. The ride is approximately 1.5 hours through some magnificent desert scenery, your accommodation or dive centre will be happy to arrange transfers.
Location: southeast coast of the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt
El Gouna is a purpose-built, privately-developed resort around 25 kilometers north of Hurghada. Although there is little that resembles a ‘genuine’ Egypt here, it has been beautifully designed, with a variety of boutique hotels, spas, and private villas available for rent. The resort is known for its kitesurfing and has an 18-hole golf course, all of which are placed in a much more calm surroundings than Hurghada. Visitors may wander around freely without being continually hassled to buy trinkets, and the nightlife is much more mellow than other of Sharm’s more flamboyant parts.
The shoreline in Abu Tig is a great area to spend an evening, and there are numerous fantastic restaurants there. Wreck divers go to El Gouna because of its vicinity to Sha’ab Abu Nuhas, which is home to the Chisola K, Carnatic, and Giannis D, among other famous wrecks. Sha’ab El Erg and Dolphin House, which is less regularly visited by Hurghada day boats, is home to a big pod of dolphins with frequent encounters.
How to get there: Direct flights to Hurghada are available from most European countries, and transfers to El Gouna will be arranged by your hotel or accommodation
Large pelagics are only occasional visitors, but the unspoilt and vibrant reefs are home to all of the popular Red Sea denizens, from the ubiquitous lionfish and blue-spotted ribbontail rays to sea snakes and guitarfish. Day boats can transport divers to the fabled Elphinstone reef, which is known for regular encounters with oceanic whitetip sharks in the second part of the year, or the haunting wreck of the Salem Express. A trip to the historical location is completed with stops at the 4,000-year-old rock inscriptions at Wadi Hammamat and the ruins of the ancient harbor of Myos Hormos.
How to get there: Direct flights to either Hurghada or Marsa Alam. There are fewer flights to Marsa Alam, but as the airport is around 20km north of the city, transfer times to El Quseir are reduced to approximately one hour. Flights to Hurghada are far more frequent, with a transfer time of around 1 hour 45 minutes.
Location: Red Sea coast
Hurghada ranks 6th on the list of best places to scuba diving in Egypt. Hurghada, once a little fishing village, has evolved to be the largest resort on the Egyptian mainland since regular tourism began in the 1980s, and is today regarded as one of Egypt’s greatest scuba diving destinations. Many of the reefs are easily accessible, shallow, sheltered areas abounding with the Red Sea’s rich marine life, making it an excellent spot for beginner diving and dive courses. With deeper sites and stronger currents, advanced divers will feel right at home.
The Giftun islands are popular with divers of all levels, and the closeness of Sha’ab Abu Nuhas and its wrecks, like El Gouna just a short drive to the north, is popular with wreck divers from beginner to high tech. Day trips to the SS Thiistlegorm, as well as tours to the Rosalie Moller, which, unlike Thistlegorm, is rarely visited from Sharm, are frequently available. Hurghada is also the most popular departure point for Red Sea liveaboards, with trips to practically all of the Red Sea’s reefs and wrecks.
How to get there: Regular, direct flights to Hurghada are available year-round from most of Europe. Alternative routes involve flying to Cairo and catching an internal flight to Hurghada.
Location: Red Sea coast
Marsa Alam offers some of the best Red Sea diving in a destination that has been progressively rising in popularity since the international airport opened in 2003, but is still underdeveloped when compared to Hurghada and Sharm. Daily diving can be done from the beach or from a boat, making it a perfect alternative for those who don’t want to spend the entire day at sea but still want to see some of the top dive sites in the area.
Marsa Abu Dabab is a particular highlight, famous for the resident population of dugong, one of the few places in the Red Sea that these animals can still be seen on a daily dive excursion. Marsa Alam is another great place to depart for day trips to Elphinstone to spot sharks, including the hammerheads that often school around the north plateau. Port Ghalib, around 60km to the north is the departure point for many liveaboards heading towards the deep south of the Red Sea, and Marsa Alam the airport of choice where possible.
How to get there: Direct flights to Marsa Alam are available but much more limited schedule than to Hurghada, which may be a better alternative for the schedule but means an extra 3 hours’ transfer by road. Flying via Cairo and taking an internal flight is also an option, but may add an extra day to the travel time. Package prices via tour operators are the best option.
Location: Red Sea in Coraya Bay
Safaga ranks 8th on the list of best places to scuba diving in Egypt. It lies about 70 kilometers south of Hurghada and is known for its wall dives, magnificent coral gardens, and the wreck of the Salem Express, a passenger ferry that sank in 1991, killing an estimated 470 people. Ras Abu Soma’s dives, as well as the Tobia reefs, popularly known as the ‘Seven Pinnacles,’ are regarded as some of the greatest in the region. All locations are reasonably accessible by boat, with limited shore diving available depending on whether you stay in Safaga or neighboring Soma Bay.
Panorama Reef, the region’s most famous dive site, features beautiful 200-meter-deep walls ideal for drift diving, massive hard and soft coral formations, and sightings of grey reef sharks, barracuda, and schooling jacks. Middle Reef has some of the most exquisite coral gardens in the region, while Abu Kafan offers a comparable, if not more, magnificent experience. The Salem Express is regarded as one of the top wreck dives in the world, a well-known but ominous dive due to the hull’s coral encrustation. Makadi Bay, about 30 kilometers north of Hurghada, is also a good option, as it provides a halfway point between Hurghada and Safaga’s dive sites, but it is less well known by tourists.
Location: Egypt, on the coast of the Red Sea
St John’s, Zabargad and Rocky Island
The Deep South features the most untouched and pristine reefs in the Egyptian Red Sea, including well-known names like St John’s, Zabargad, and Rocky Island, which are all only accessible by liveaboard. St John’s is home to the richest coral gardens in the Red Sea, spectacular gorgonian forests, and some of the most abundant and biodiverse wildlife in the region, including sharks and large schools of pelagic fish like jacks and tuna, as well as some of the most abundant and biodiverse wildlife in the region. The strong currents around Rocky Island and its neighbor, Zabargad, allow experienced divers to enjoy some spectacular drift dives with regular sightings of manta, hammerheads, Silvertips, and dolphins further out to sea.
The long chain of reefs known as Fury Shoal, often a part of deep south liveaboard itineraries, has become accessible by day boats thanks to new developments in the town of Hamata, providing access to some of these pristine reefs without the need for a liveaboard, albeit a long (180km) trek south by road from Marsa Alam.
How to get there: Departure to the deep south is most often from Port Ghalib, with the closest airport being Marsa Alam. As with other destinations, it’s often easier to fly to Hurghada and make the three-hour road trip to Port Ghalib, but liveaboard operators generally fulfil the travel requirements.
Location: Egypt’s southern Red Sea
Sharm El Sheikh
For many people, Sharm El Sheikh is the best spot in Egypt for scuba diving, and it has perhaps contributed more to the European dive industry than any other resort on the planet. The deep Gulf of Aqaba, the shallow Gulf of Suez, and the Red Sea proper all meet at Shark and Yolanda reef, the region’s most famous and regularly dived hotspot in the national park of Ras Mohamed, which is located at the point of the Sinai Peninsula. Sharm offers a diverse range of dives from basic to difficult, appropriate for both beginner and advanced divers, as well as quick drifts around the island reefs of the Tiran Straits.
Although some shore diving is possible, most diving is done by boat to explore the greatest reefs including the SS Thistlegorm, one of the world’s most famous wrecks. Large schools of fish have returned to the area, and pelagic species such as whale sharks and manta rays have been sighted on a regular basis, following a decline in travel following the 2015 Russian flight catastrophe.
How to get there: Direct flights to Sharm are available from most European countries; for those who might have been hibernating over the winter. direct flights from the UK resumed in October 2019 and there are now plenty of options available.